Sunday, April 24, 2011

i try the boulevard

It was quite a sad evening. In two days I would be gone. On a plane and gone...well...for a while. So The Boss, Smalls and I went to The Boulevard for one last hurrah. The Boulevard is located where The Floreat Hotel used to be. The decor is nice and sophisticated without being wanky or arrogant. We were given the choice of sitting inside or outside and then shown to our table. Our waitress was friendly and helpful. We did ask a lot of wine-related questions. For each question she happily strolled away somewhere and found the answer. The Boulevard has a good, solid selection of wines so it's understandable that she didn't know everything about every bottle but a basic knowledge of grape variety is probably necessary. Just saying...We ended up sharing a bottle of Jamsheed 'Pepe Le Pinot' Pinot Noir ($45).

Smalls and The Boss had been to The Boulevard on previous occasions. The menu is divided up into several sections: "To Share", "Pizza", "Mains", "Salads" and (of course) "dessert". It is nice that they are trying to cater to all levels of hunger. However, sometimes it is dificult to pinpoint what that level is, or whether the occasion is an entree-main-dessert type occassion or more of a share-and-share-and-share type occasion. We decided to do a combo of the two and share an entree of salt and pepper squid with lemon aioli ($16.50, pictured), then order individual mains.

I have a penchant for salt and pepper squid and have seen some very interesting looking versions of the dish. So, I'll be honest. This squid didn't look that great on the plate. The plate was enormous and the squid rings were quite small. It certainly wasn't love at first sight. But as we began to nibble away at it I realised why they say "never judge a book by its cover". And, although the squd rings were strangely small they were tender, the batter was light and crispy and the aoili had the perfect amount of garlic. I could've easily devoured the whole plate myself.

Our mains arrived shortly after our squid. There was no way Smalls was ever going to pass up gnocci. On this particular occassion it was accompanied by crispy skin barramundi ($36.50, pictured).

As the menu promised the skin on the Barramundi was lovely and crispy and the flesh cooked as fish should be. It was surrounded by plump, golden pillows of home-made gnocci. I'm not a gnocci person but Smalls is the gnocci guru. She gave it her tick of approval.

To be honest I can't for the life of me remember what The Boss ordered. But it looked like this:

I think it was duck. Or maybe chicken. Either way it was cooked beautifully. The Boss said it was lovely and juicy. And the seasonal vegie salad on the side was simple, colourful and also cooked beautifully. All the vegies had just a slight crunch and were lightly coated in a subtle dressing. My dish was chicken salad with vermicelli noodles, purple cabbage, roast capsicum, lime and coriander (pictured below).

It was a massive serve. They were generous with the chicken. And the noodles. There were a lot of noodles. And, to me vermicelli noodles don't really taste like anything. They are a good addition but should not be the key ingredient. Other than that it was exactly what I felt like. It was fresh and perfect for the balmy evening it was. The dressing was also rather delicious.

I have to admit I wasn't that impressed with the dessert menu. It's not that I'm not a dessert person. No no. I'm a dessert person through and through. But there was nothing on the menu that jumped out at me. I would've happily passed and found sweets elsewhere. But Smalls and The Boss decided on dessert anyway.

We switched back to our original arrangement and decided to share spanish doughnuts, chocolate sauce, vanilla anglaise ($14.50) and creme brulee ($14.50, pictured). The desserts came out in good time. I couldn't help but laugh at the spanish doughnuts. They were the ugliest things I had ever seen. They were huge. I've had churros before and The Boulevard's version didn't match the original. They were alright. Nothing to write home about. The serving was definitely too much for one. Between the three of us we didn't finish them. The anglaise was absolutely delicious. The doughnuts: average. But the creme brulee...oh the creme brulee. It was amazing. Our spoons cracked through the crunchy coating of sugar. It was delicious, rich and creamy without being sickly. Forget the doughnuts. Stick with the brulee.

It was probably just as well the brulee was so good. As we said goodbyes the delicious flavour of the brulee still lingered. It was still sad. We agreed that next we would test the pizza. I smiled knowing that "next time" would be quite a while time I'll just get a serve of squid and a brulee and I'll be set.

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Wednesday, April 6, 2011

i try driving from melbourne to sydney

The trip was planned with precision timing. A bus, a bus, then a train, then a plane, then a bus, then a train, then a bus, then a 40 minute walk. Departing my house at 5.30am I would greet the truck carrying my beloved car (who I have named Lucille) as it drove into the gate at 11.30am. I would spend a night in Victoria then leave the next morning for Sydney.

The plan was fraught with possible problems. Although, in my head (my little, fanciful, everything-will-go-perfectly-head) I didn't consider any of them. I had made it as far as my last train ride before things started to go wrong.

The truckie rang to say he was going to be late. Six hours late. And so i spent the day amusing myself in Werribee. Yes, Werribee. For non-Victorians, Werribee is a small town halfway between Melbourne and Geelong. How can I put this delicately? It's a hole. I remember going to the Werribee Waste Treatment Plant for a school excursion once. Enough said. It was cold in Werribee and I was not dressed appropriately. The bead shop was the most interesting place in the town and I don't even like beads. Funnily enough it was having a closing down sale. I don't think I have ever spent so much time in a bead shop before. I don't think I ever will again.

So, after spending the day testing out every single cafe in Werribee I was back on the train heading to Newport (another town where I swear there is something in the air makes you feel glum). From Newport I caught a bus to Altona North and then began a forty minute walk to the depot where my car was being dropped off.

Now, I'm not a lazy person. I have been known to go on adventures that involve walking much further than forty minutes. But, I had been up since 4.30am. I had experienced enough public transport to make up for all the public transport I never took in WA. I was absolutely aching for the toilet. And, my tolerance had completely given way. I was angry. I was sick of carrying my over-night bag. I was busting for the toilet. And, as much I tried to be excited about getting my car it was just easier to be really really pissed off.

As I walked angrily down the road and rounded a bend, the footpath came to an abrupt end. I was met by a reserve of overgrown shrubbery and a creek. A creek! Why is there a creek there?! Why! I looked for a way around. I pulled out my phone to call a cab. I'm not going to lie. At this point, I was ready to break down and cry as the hold music went on and on and on. I hung up and sat down on fence post wondering what the hell I was going to do next. It was one of the few times I really didn't know what to do. I just sat there staring at the bitumen. The full sensation in my bladder was ever-present and reminding I aso needed to find a toilet. My brain was empty. I had nothing. Not even an option.

But, minutes later, an option came running by me in the form of a middle-aged man. Without even thinking I walked hastily over to him and asked him for help. He must've heard the seriously-I'm-about-to-cry-please-help-me tone in my voice. He said he owned a gym around the corner and he could drive me too my car from there.

He did. I survived. And, he was genuinely a really nice guy. Next stop: Sydney! Well, just as soon as I construct a makeshift number plate because my front number plate seems to be missing. WTF? Who does that? The lady at DPI scolded me because I said I was going to drive my car anyway. "You can't drive it!" she said. Stupid lady. I was driving to Sydney with a number plate or without. Next stop: Sydney!

The first six hours of driving were fairly easy. I discovered the luxury of cruise control and had a good sound track. I think I was just really happy to have Lucille back and have an empty bladder. The sun was beginning to set so I pulled into a little town called Gundagai for the night. Gundagai is a picturesque little town about halfway between Melbourne and Sydney. From what I gathered it is famous for three things: two old bridges and a statue of a dog on a box. Don't feel bad. I'd never heard of them either.

The next morning, in a moment of inspiration and determination, I decided to climb Mount Parnassis. It was walking distance from my motel and I figured it would be the best thing to wake me up before I continued onto Sydney. I awoke to a thick blanket of fog engulfing...well...eveything. None the less I set off to climb up the mountain anyway. When I got to the top it was...magic. I stood mesmerised. I was watching the sun rise in the distance. The tops of surrounding mountains were breaking through the thick blanket of fog that I was now above. I felt light. Everything stopped. Everything was still. It felt like there was nothing else in the world.

Unfortunately I had to get myself to Sydney so I ventured back down into the fog and headed off towards Sydney. Ha ha easier said than done when you are driving at 110km into this:

The visibility was reduced to about 50m for a good 45 minutes. It was a little scary but I was much more terrified of the Sydney toll roads. There were a lot of close calls where I just happened to be in the right lane, a lot of panicking and a lot of looking back over my shoulder wondering if I was supposed to go that way. I did make it to the northern beaches eventually. I aged a few years in the process but I did get there.